Community Psychology Section
The Community Psychology Section provides a forum to exchange ideas and promote research into community psychology.
Throughout the year we hold regular events and contact members with updates and news.
Reduced registration fees are available to Section member at conferences and special workshops organised by the Section, including an annual conference.
Welcome to the Community Psychology Section. Since 2010, the Section has become a well-established part of the British Psychological Society, driven by activists, academics, clinicians, students, and psychologists who have an interest in communities and promoting the voices of the most excluded individuals and groups. Both mainstream and critical community psychologists have come together to promote values of social justice, empowerment, accompaniment, equality, and diversity over the years, working in the hope that psychology can become an all-encompassing psychology of inclusion, participation, and solidarity for all, within and outside of psychology, in the UK and across the world.
Welcome to the Community Psychology Section.
Since 2010, the Section has become a well-established part of the British Psychological Society, driven by activists, academics, clinicians, students, and psychologists who have an interest in communities and promoting the voices of the most excluded individuals and groups. Both mainstream and critical community psychologists have come together to promote values of social justice, empowerment, accompaniment, equality, and diversity over the years, working in the hope that psychology can become an all-encompassing psychology of inclusion, participation, and solidarity for all, within and outside of psychology, in the UK and across the world.
Community psychology is forever in flux and underpinned by changing times, diverse identities, complex communities, local vs. national vs. international perspectives and differing values, but shared goals in seeing people in context, using creative and innovative methods to promote action and change, and solidarity in fighting for social justice ensures that community psychology is as important as ever. Community psychology concerns working with the most marginalised and seeks to intersect at all levels and all identities and not seeing people in isolation as a singular individual. Alongside social justice issues, community psychologists look to promote the need to deideologise and decolonise psychology in solidarity with excluded people.
The Community Psychology Section provides the opportunity for all those interested in community psychology and its ideas and philosophies, whether you are a psychologist or not, to create a space in which people can exchange ideas and develop critical discussions, and to promote community psychological research and practice (praxis).
Please do contact us if you would like to learn more and we look forward to hearing from people who are interested in Community Psychology and if you would like to work with us in promoting this value-based, contextualised, and forward-thinking psychology that strives for social justice for the most marginalised people in society.
- Dr Michael Richards, Chair of the Section
Our aims and objectives
- approach research from a standpoint of methodological pluralism
- employ methodological approaches which give voice to traditionally under-represented populations
- exchange ideas through research publications, workshops, conferences, training sessions and practice
- promote respect of diversity amongst people and settings
- encourage and facilitate the British Psychological Society to communicate the impact of societal factors on psychosocial functioning,
- encourage critical reflection on the privileges held by British Psychological Society psychologists
- facilitate recognition that knowledge and expertise effective in promoting well-being and social justice can be found outside of professional contexts
- promote the study and understanding of community psychology within community organisations, the health service, secondary schools, and further and higher education
- address people’s strengths and competencies as well as problems and difficulties
- challenge the dominance of individually-focused models of psychosocial adjustment and psychological intervention
- promote preventative interventions for health and well-being
- raise awareness of socio-political and organisational issues affecting education, development and well-being
- lobby for ideologically progressive policies consistent with community psychology principles
- question established power structures and hierarchies
- research the impact of local, national and international policies on health and well-being
- encourage lobbying, community networking, advocacy and policy engagement
- facilitate community engagement to address issues affecting health and well-being
- promote the interests of marginalised, disempowered and oppressed people
- work with community organisations towards collaborative understanding of issues of collective importance
History of Community Psychology
Its roots stretch back to the early years of the psychology discipline. One seminal European influence was the study by Marie Jahoda and colleagues, first published in the early 1930s, of the unemployed community of Marienthal in Austria.
Marie Jahoda went on to become the first woman professor at Sussex University and founded a version of social psychology closely related to community psychology. She conducted another pioneering community study in Wales, and also published the landmark 1959 book "Current concepts of positive mental health"
In the 1960s, there was an upsurge of interest in community psychology, partly resulting from the political upheavals of that era.
In the USA, the 1965 "Swampscott Conference" on the Education of Psychologists in Community Mental Health led to the foundation of American Psychological Association’s Division of Community Psychology (now the Society for Community Research and Action), which gave a focus to an influential North American association of community psychologists.
In the UK, community psychology has developed outside of the British Psychological Society (at least until the recent foundation of this section). The UK Community Psychology Network, which was a precursor to this section, has facilitated a series of national community psychology conferences and has an active online discussion forum.
Many UK individuals and groups are doing community psychology research and practice, although not always labelled as such. To single out any particular pieces of work for mention here would be invidious. The chapter by Burton, Boyle, Harris and Kagan (2007) gives a thorough overview of the history and current status of UK community psychology.
Influential British community psychology texts have been published by Mike Bender (1976), Jim Orford (1992, 2008) and Carolyn Kagan, Mark Burton, Paul Duckett, Rebecca Lawthom, and Asiya Siddiquee (2011). Two community-related journals started life in the UK: the Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology (founded in 1991) and Community, Work and Family (founded in 1998).
The establishment of the Community Psychology Section was supported by a large number of Society members and is testament to the dedication and tenacity of a particular group including
- Annie Mitchell
- David Fryer
- Jacqui Akhurst
- Janet Bostock
- Jim Orford
The values at the heart of community psychology include those of inclusivity, social justice and improvement of health and well-being. These cut across existing subdisciplines and member networks of the Society and encourage collaboration and partnership between different disciplines.
The Section aims to provide a focus for researchers and practitioners interested in basing their work on these, through non-individual intervention.
The ethos of community psychology has never been more important than now, when it feels as if the world is in an economic maelstrom, and rushed economically based decisions will have far-reaching impacts on the most vulnerable and socially excluded members of society.
The Section, therefore, would like to engage in producing and gathering evidence, communicating the impact on psychosocial functioning of and developing community-based interventions to address such issues as: poverty; inequality; gendered violence; the construction of disability; insecure employment and unemployment; substance misuse and challenges to people’s mental health.
The Community Psychology Section will raise questions about how we might create a society based on greater egalitarianism, non-exploitation and respect for the environment in order to foster solidarity and interdependence.
In The Origins of Happiness, the authors use statistical analyses to explore factors that influence ‘life-satisfaction’ across the lifespan (e.g. ‘income’, ‘education’, ‘work and employment’) and make a series of recommendations for policy-makers based on these analyses.
As community psychologists, we are in broad agreement with improving population level well-being through improved social and economic policies. However, we argue that The Origins of Happiness presents conceptual misunderstandings about ‘happiness’ and ‘misery’ and the ways in which these might be measured.
In this paper, we present some of our concerns regarding the validity of key concepts underpinning the data presented in the book. We also highlight some relevant areas of research that are missing from The Origins of Happiness and comment on the proposed policy implications of the research from a psychological perspective.
The guidance can be used by practitioner psychologists working in a variety of settings including, but not limited to, health and social care, forensic, educational, and research.
It is not a set of rules to follow or a manual, but aims to provide ideas on how psychologists can work successfully with community organisations and partners.
This guidance document was conceived of and developed by the London Community Psychology Network.
Key texts (UK context)
- Kagan, C., Akhurst, J., Alfaro, J., Lawthom, R., Richards, M. & Zambrano, A. (2022). The Routledge International Handbook of Community Psychology. Routledge
- Walker, C., Zlotowitz, S. & Zoli, A. (2022). The Palgrave Handbook of Innovative Community and Clinical Psychologies. Palgrave Macmillan
- Kagan, C., Burton, M., Duckett, P., Lawthom, R. & Siddiquee, A. (2020). Critical Community Psychology: Critical Action and Social Change. Routledge
- Orford, J. (2008). Community Psychology: Challenges, Controversies and Emerging Consensus. Wiley
Key texts (International)
- Fanon, F. (1961). The Wretched of the Earth. Penguin Classics, Reprint Edition
- Fanon, F. (1952). Black Skins, White Masks. Grove Press, Revised Edition
- Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Penguin
- Kessi, S., Suffla, S. & Seedat, M. (2021). Decolonial Enactments in Community Psychology – Community Psychology. Springer Nature Switzerland AG
- Nelson, G. & Prilleltensky, I. (2010). Community Psychology: In pursuit of liberation and Well-being. Palgrave Macmillan
- Seedat, M., Suffla, S. & Christie, D.J. (2018). Emancipatory and Participatory Methodologies in Peace, Critical and Community Psychology. Springer International Publishing AG
Useful Links for Community Psychology Publications and Information
Please also follow the links below to read the works of other community psychologists and allies from other disciplines within the following established journals and organisations:
Please note submissions for this award are now closed
The aim of the prize is to encourage collaborative action-oriented community psychology praxis, the Community Psychology Section will be awarding up to three prizes for collaborative action projects.
There will be up to three prizes for a community psychology collaborative action project.
Each successful collaboration will:
- be able to share their work with other Section members via one of the Community Psychology Section’s electronic newsletters
- have an opportunity to present their work at a forthcoming Community Psychology Section event in 2019/20
- receive a Certificate of Achievement awarded by the Chair of the Community Psychology Section to each partner
Please note submissions for this award are now closed
- Postgraduate degrees (e.g. MPhil, PhD, Professional Doctorates)
- Taught postgraduate research (e.g. MA, MSc, PGDip, MRes)
- Undergraduate research
The purpose of the prizes is to encourage community psychology research among early career researchers, the Community Psychology Section will be awarding up to three prizes for student research projects.
Each successful prize-winner will:
- be able to share their work with other Section members via one of the Community Psychology Section’s electronic newsletters
- have an opportunity to present findings from this work at a forthcoming Community Psychology Section event in 2019/20
- receive a Certificate of Achievement awarded by the Chair of the Community Psychology Section
Please note submissions for funding are now closed
The Community Psychology Section is able to provide limited support to Section members who wish to attend events that either/or:
- Contribute to the members’ community of psychological professional development
- Spread understanding of community psychology to a wider audience
- All applications must be accompanied by a short letter of support from a Manager or Tutor.
- Applications for awards will be assessed by the BPS Community Psychology Section Committee, whose decision will be final. Feedback will be available for unsuccessful applicants on request form the Chair of the Committee.
- Applicants will be expected to write a 500 – 1000 word log for the Section web page and NING site following the event.
- Funds will be paid either in advance via official invoice or in arrears subject to the submission of an official claim form.
- Members seeking support should complete the online application form and submit it at least two months prior to the event.
- Section support will normally take the form of paying registration fees for the event and it is expected that applicants will have secured funding from elsewhere for associated costs.
- The availability of the Awards will be at the discretion of the BPS Community Psychology Section Committee and will be advertised to members as and when available.
- There will normally be maximum of £250 per person per event and applicants may only apply for one event in a 12 month period.
The purpose of the awards is to enable people to attend events who do not have recourse to funding on a regular basis. Please bear this in mind when making an application. If we have a lot of applications, priority will be given to those who do not have access to CPD budgets (such as students, members with dependants and not in work, members who don’t have secure employment).
Criteria for assessment of applications
- Evidence of attempts to secure funding from elsewhere
- Likelihood that community psychological understanding will be spread or potential for contributing to applicants’ community psychological professional development.
- Value for money within available fund
The Community Psychology Section are offering bursaries to to attend the Community Psychology Festival 2023 in Edinburgh.
Applications must be received by 31 August 2023 at 5pm.
If awarded a bursary you will be invited to write 500 words on your experiences of attending the Festival.
The committee reserves the right not to make bursary awards should no suitable candidates be found.
To be eligible for a bursary, you must meet the following criteria:
- Not have received a conference bursary from the Community Psychology Section in the last 2 years
- Be a member of the Community Psychology Section.
We welcome applications from everyone and strongly encourage applications from individuals with protected characteristics (e.g. race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability, age, etc.).
By submitting an application, you are agreeing to share your name and email address with the committee.
Chair: Michael Richards
Past Chair: Carl Harris
Honorary Treasurer: Vacant
Honorary Secretary: Vacant
- Dominique Fray-Aitken
- Rebecca Lawthorn
- Tonia McGinty
- Deanne Bell
- May Karlsen
Counselling Psychology Representative: Rebecca Morland
DCP Pre-Qualifications Group Representative: Vacant
DECP Representative: Vacant
PsyPAG Representative: Priya Ahmed
- Apply to join the section (students, affiliates, e-subscribers)
- Apply to join the section (graduate, chartered, and in-training members)
Membership of the Community Psychology Section is only open to members of the British Psychological Society.
If you are not already a BPS member, you can join the Section at the same time as applying for membership of the society.
Benefits of belonging
- Full access to the Section website, ad hoc reports and updates via our membership newsletter
- Get involved in drafting BPS responses to current issues, and influence policy related to our fields of expertise
- Help us consider optimal ways of disseminating community psychology within mental health, academic, local government, and other contexts
- Opportunity to participate in our Twitter feed
- Opportunity to join a regional interest group – or to form one if there is not one near you!
- Reduced registration rates to our Community Psychology Festival and regular training and CPD event
The Community Psychology Section uses its membership announcement email list to inform its members of activities and initiatives that are relevant to their interests and to make requests for engagement on topical issues.
By becoming a member of the Section you are automatically added to the announcement list.
To receive these emails you will need to:
- become a member of the Community Psychology Section
- opt into receiving email communication and provide a working email address
These preferences can be updated by logging into your member portal.
If you have any queries, please contact Member Network Services.
To assist us in responding to your query please make sure to include your membership number and quote 'Community Psychology Section announcement email' in the subject line.
The Community Psychology Section relies on a wide range of people getting involved, and the work of the Section is largely achieved through the dedication of unpaid volunteers.
Our volunteers come from a wide range of different backgrounds, whether they be practitioners or academics, or full members or student members, and together form an open and inclusive community.